Monday 30 July 2012

Rally - Speyside on Saturday

I got some ‘hate mail’ at the weekend regarding my previous item on rally seeding. The sender was pointing out the error of my ways in referring to ‘rally seeding’ as opposed to the more accurate term, ‘rally running-order’. Of course he was perfectly correct. Rally organisers have the right to run competitors in any order they wish while paying due regard to anticipated performance.

Although a number of attempts have been made over the years at establishing a proper ‘seeding list’ of competitors, most events still rely on the experience and knowledge of officials and the past results ‘Seeding Information’ section on Entry Forms filled in by competitors.

So I stand rebuked, but I’ll see the sender this weekend. He just happens to have won the Scottish Rally Championship three times in the past and was the driver of a car affectionately known to Scottish rally fans as ‘Big Rumbly’, so all the old-stagers will know instantly who I mean.

Anyway, the full Entry List for this weekend’s sixth round of the Scottish Rally Championship, the Gleaner Oils & Gas Speyside Stages Rally is now on the website along with a Timetable and a list of the outlets where to buy the Rally Programme.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Rally - Seeding row

The forthcoming Ian Broll Merrick Stages Rally (1st September) has joined the ranks of ‘wee cars first’ running order. In company with the Border, Granite, Scottish and McRae rallies, the Merrick will run Class 1–7 ahead of the bigger engined 2WD cars and the 4WD brigade.

This will cause a bit of a stooshie in certain quarters. With half the events in Scotland’s premier national rallying series already running such a system, this will tip the balance firmly in favour of those running more modestly powered vehicles ahead of the bigger and faster cars.

The Jim Clark doesn’t really count because it runs its stages on sealed surface roads, so they don’t cut up, but it will leave the Snowman and Speyside exposed. Do they follow suit, or do they stick to their guns?

The debate boils down to two views. The front running 4WD cars in ‘normal’ seeding stand accused of cutting up the forest roads ahead of the smaller 2WD class cars running behind, so it is in the 2WDrivers’ interest to run at the head of the field – less damage to their cars.

But for those who originally started their rallying career at the back of the field and have earned the right through speed and success to move up towards the front are now being penalised.

There is also the issue of safety. The original reason for using ‘performance-led seeding’ of entry lists was to ensure that slower and less experienced crews ran behind the faster more successful crews. It was never about money at that time, it was about safety.

Nowadays organisers have introduced gaps between the two categories, but this introduces delays to the event’s timetable and accidents can still happen.

However, no-one can dispute the idea that running Class 1-7 ahead of the main field leads to more entries from those who own smaller cars, and in these cost-conscious days, that has to be a prime attraction for introducing such a system.

Organising a rally is a costly affair for an amateur car club, and if they get their sums wrong, a big loss can lead to extinction. In other words, they need the numbers to try and keep Entry Fees to an acceptable level.

Before they even turn a wheel, most clubs are looking at an 18 grand Forestry Bill, then they have to start adding their own organisational expenses, insurance and the costs of complying with MSA rules and regulations.

The only way out of this might be to ban all 4WD cars, but then again, a 300 bhp rear wheel drive machine putting all that power down through two wheels can cause more damage than a 300 bhp all wheel drive car.

So that begs the question, does rallying put a cap on power outputs as well as a ban on total traction?

No doubt the debate will continue.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Blethers - Olympic breakfast

There has been a lot of hype and scaremongering going on regarding the imminent arrival of the international festival of running, jumping, throwing and splashing which comes to Britain next week, primarily in the south east of the country.

I have deliberately avoided giving this athletics events its full title due to all the dire warnings and threats of financial penalties and liberty deprivation regarding the mis-use of certain words. Sadly the Government has all too willingly given in to this mis-appropriation of the English language and our rights to free speech in pursuit of the commercial coin.

Methinks things have gone too far. Organisers telling local businesses to cover their signs if they mention certain words, shops asked to take down ‘unauthorised’ displays even if they are welcoming the international athletes, and visitors to the show being told not to wear certain tops and trainers.

Up until this point I had been a supporter of the event, but this crass subservience to sponsors, backed up by legal threats for non-compliances just ranks of sheer hypocrisy. On the one hand the organisers and the ‘international committee’ want exposure for their events, but on the other, certain big-name sponsors are dictating what words and phrases we, the great British public, can and cannot use in our own country.

I have no doubt London and its good people will cope. It’ll be a case of keeping a stiff upper lip, grinning and bearing, and just getting on with it, whilst buses and officials whizz past in special lanes.

And so it is with some relief that I have noted that the great ‘Olympic Breakfast’ has been saved for the nation. Little Chef has had the ‘Olympic Breakfast’ on its Menu since 1994 and because of that, LOCOG has recognised the right of the restaurant chain to continue to use the term, and more importantly, serve the breakfast to its customers!

Still the most requested and popular item on the Little Chef Menu, the breakfast platter consists of two eggs, two rashers or back bacon, British pork sausage, mushrooms, fried potatoes, griddled tomato, Heinz baked beans and toast or fried bread, and it has been saved for the nation’s travellers.

Over a million of these breakfasts are sold around the UK each year, and this weekend I’m going to stage my own protest against corporate greed. I won’t be going out for a burger and cola, I’ll have a proper cooked breakfast under the sign of the wee man with the big hat and washed down with Irn-Bru, or maybe even Vimto.

Up the rebels, power to the people!

Sunday 22 July 2012

Road - Tragedy in India

Here’s a strange, but very sad piece of news, car production at the Maruti Suzuki plant in India has been suspended indefinitely pending the outcome of a police investigation. A senior manager at the plant was killed and many other senior managers and officials seriously injured.

Last Wednesday mobs of car plant workers attacked senior members of staff with iron bars and car parts in a riot, which left one senior manager dead, and then set fire to the plant.

It’s not the first time there has been such confrontations in Indian auto plants although this is the most serious to date.

The Indian police have already arrested around 100 people for murder and arson, but investigations are ongoing amongst the rest of the 3,000-strong labour force.

Around two dozen senior managers are still in hospital, mostly with broken arms and legs.

Bosses at the car plant say the attacks were unprovoked, but it has been suggested that workers were under heavy pressure to improve productivity. The Indian rupee has depreciated against foreign currencies leading to the increased cost of imported components.

Kind of puts the British farmers’ action against the wholesale and milk retailers into perspective, doesn’t it?

Thursday 19 July 2012

Road - True story?

Apparently, this is a true story .... A businessman walked into a London bank and asked for the loan officer. He said he was going to Europe on business for two weeks and needed to borrow £5,000. The loan officer said the bank would need some security for such a loan.

The business man then handed over the keys to his Audi Q5 that was parked on the street in front of the bank. Everything checked out and the loan officer accepted the Audi Q5 as collateral for the loan. An employee then drove the Audi Q5 into the bank’s underground garage and parked it there.

The Loan Officer thought the business man was a numpty for leaving a great car like this in exchange for a £5,000 loan.

Two weeks later the businessman returned, repaid the £5,000 and the interest which came to £15.41.

The loan officer said, “We do appreciate your business and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a bit puzzled. While you were away we checked and found that you are a multimillionaire. What puzzles us is why you would bother to borrow £5,000?”

The business man replied: “Where else in London can I park my car for two weeks for fifteen pounds?”

Rally - Morris Bear at the Ready

As runners and jumpers from all around the world arrive in London (that’s near France by the way) this week for the big skipping and throwing extravagance next week, Morris the Bear’s preparations for his own big adventure are also reaching a climax.

As revealed on this Blog a couple of weeks ago (11th July), Morris is intending to participate in his own motoring marathon to help raise funds for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity. This will be a major world-wide first for any Bear regardles of nationality.

Unfortunately, BBC Scotland television, who were intending to document and follow Morris Bear’s progress, have had to cancel their extensive plans as all camera crews and presenters have been dispatched south to the after-school international sports day.

Anyway it would appear that the plans of his proposed adventure have reached the ears of the national press and anyone buying this week’s ‘Lanark and Carluke Advertiser’ will find out more about Morris Bear, his plans and his helpers.

Note attention to detail - BJ is 'running-in' his driving shoes and the number plate is tie-wrapped!
 Photo courtesy: Douglas McKendrick, Hamilton Advertiser
An extract from the paper:

Two men and a bear are busy preparing for a marathon 1000 mile journey around northern Scotland, raising cash for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Blackwood’s Jim Brown and Brian Johnstone are tackling La Crofterra Pandemonia, a two-day classic and sports car tour, along with Morris the Bear.

The two men are members of Coltness Car Club, affectionately known in motorsport circles as ‘The Bears.’

Their mode of transport for the 500 mile event on September 1 and 2 is a 1971 MG convertible. And as a result the men are hoping the promised change in weather patterns do occur and the rain stops since they, and Morris, are too large to fit into the car with the hood up.

“The tour starts in Fort William and ends in Inverness, which means we will have to drive 1000 miles with the hood down. Hopefully the sun will be shining by then, otherwise we are going to be somewhat damp by the end,” said Jim Brown.

A well known figure in Scottish rallying, he is chairman of Coltness CC and known in the sport as ‘Papa Bear’.

“Thanks to a loan of the MG from Pathhead Nurseries, we are tackling the event, and at the same time hoping to raise cash for a worthwhile cause, Macmillan Cancer Support,” he said. The two day tour is open to pre-1981 Classic Cars, and Sports Cars, GTs and Kit Cars of any age.

Morris has already been introduced to some of Scottish motorsport’s leading figures, and been photographed giving advice to people such as Scottish champion David Bogie, and motorsport scribe Jaggy Bunnet.

Morris now has his own facebook page charting his travels ahead of the September adventure. On it he says: “Me, Papa Bear, and BJ Bear are coming out of hibernation to represent the Coltness Car Club bears on a tour of the Scottish Highlands.

We are taking part in La Crofterra Pandemonia which is a 500 mile classic car tour, starting in Fort William and finishing in Inverness. Including the distance from home and back, we hope to travel approximately 1000 miles.”

“Our mode of transport is a 1971 MGB convertible which will need to have the roof off for the full journey as it’s a bit of a tight squeeze, and the three of us won’t fit in otherwise!”

“As Grandma Bear is poorly and, along with many others, relies on the support of charities such as MacMillan Cancer Support, we are hoping to raise some money for this worthwhile cause.”

“In doing so, we hope to have some adventures and meet up with some Highland bears on our travels. I've already made some new friends on facebook recently and hope that they will all help us with our challenge.”


Already Morris has attracted 125 friends to his facebook page which is being constantly updated in the great build up to his mammoth motoring marathon. 

There is however one major drawback to Morris’ fitness and preparation plans, or two drawbacks to be precise, and they are Papa Bear and BJ themselves. Morris’ strict health and diet regime has been frequently interrupted with visits to the pub, curry shop, car club nights and has even been seen in the company of bearesses, instead of attending rallies to gain practical experience and gyms to boost stamina.

Although La Crofterra Pandemonia is a non-spectator event - it could be worth a visit now!

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Road - Speedy app?

Not having a Smartphone, I can’t vouch for this, but since 4 out of 10 people now have such a device in their pockets, this might be of interest.

Cyclops have just launched Version 2 of their Speedwatch ‘app’ for Smartphone users. It is claimed that it offers real-time warning for all speed camera types.

It costs £9.99, and is available to new users on a 14 day free trial period. Existing Speedwatch iPhone customers will automatically get the version 2.0 up-date.

When in use, Speedwatch 2.0 runs in the background which means that audio can still be played on the device, phone calls can be made and other apps can be used, while notification alerts can still be made.

Single button reporting means that the user only has to touch the screen once while the Cyclops does all the hard work to filter and check alerts before they are issued.

Speedwatch uses Cyclops’ Waypoint Technology that provides ultra-reliable smart alerts. The UK and Ireland database includes over 20,000 professionally verified fixed and frequent mobile camera sites – the Speedwatch app also tells users when a mobile site is actually manned by a speed camera enforcement unit.

The iPhone app has already had over 75,000 downloads in the UK and Ireland since it was launched.

So it might well be worth a look.